Mission school bond may have trickle-down effect

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Since a bond was passed in the St. Ignatius School District last November, county officials say that some residents have questioned the tax.

“It’s a small percentage of the voters” that voted on the K-12 school district bond issue, Lake County Commissioner Dave Stipe said.

Voters passed the 20-year bond with a 741-629 vote.

According to the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot, the bond is in the amount of $5.7 million over 20 years.

The funds will pay for construction, equipment and furnishing improvements to the St. Ignatius district.

The estimated impact of a home valued at $100,000 with a $1,350 taxable value is $190.48 annually, with a home valued at $200,000 with a taxable value at $2,700 could be impacted $380.96 a year.

Stipe said that since the bond’s passing, several homeowners have reached out to the commissioners — sharing that their taxes have gone up a bit.

Of the residents visiting the officials, Stipe said that the amount has been no less than $500 annually.

In fact, one property owner said that on top of his usual taxes, the bond has increased his financial responsibility by $1,300.

“It’s a significant tax increase of a pretty small group of taxpayers,” Stipe said.

JASON SARGENT, superintendent of the St. Ignatius School District, said that in the time leading up to the November 2018 election, the district held opportunities for the public to come and ask questions about the bond.

“There was very little participation in informational meetings leading up to the bond for the past three years,” he explained.

The district sent mass mailers, and held walk-throughs, presentations and informational meetings, Sargent added.

“We’ve made ourselves readily available to answer questions and we definitely did everything we could,” he said.

Sargent explained that in the coming weeks the bonds will be sold, which “may affect the cost” once the interest rate is determined.

On Feb. 28, marketing materials will be distributed to prospective investors, while on March 12 rates will be finalized and terms and distribute financing schedules will be sorted.

“We will then adopt final bond resolutions, and then the taxes will be imposed on local tax payments,” Sargent said.

Although the bonds have not been sold, he confirmed that it will be at a rate of 4.5 percent or less.

STIPE SAID that county officials researched if the district followed state mandates in relaying information to taxpayers, as some did not understand the amounts.

Stipe explained that school districts in Montana are exempt from divulging an exact monetary amount of how much taxes will increase.

“They did not break the law,” Stipe confirmed, noting that the district followed procedure, holding public meetings.

Stipe said that the bond will affect homeowners and property owners immediately, and within a year those who rent in the district will likely see their rates increase.

It will not affect Tribal housing, he added.

In addition to the bond, a concurrent Inter-cap loan for $1.2 million will take care of maintenance around the schools.

Projects include fixing the St. Ignatius Elementary School roof, elementary fixtures, fixing the high school’s gym ceiling, as well as other improvements on a long list that the loan would help, Sargent said.

The superintendent said that the district has begun taking bids on four of the projects.

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